Haley Sturgeon Smile

Leaving Copper Rock Encouraged

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Kendra Dalton says she’s a better golfer than ever. That statement covers last season, when her third missed cut of the Epson Tour schedule didn’t come until September.

Now that she has failed to play the final round in three of five tournaments in 2022, including the Copper Rock Championship, she recognizes that her degree of self-belief lacks supporting evidence on her scorecards.

The numbers added up to 77 and 78 for the former BYU golfer this week at Copper Rock Golf Course, the second-year host of the event presented by KSLSPORTS.com. Friday’s variable weather pattern in Hurricane produced cold, windy, rainy and, finally, sunny conditions just before sunset. By then, it was too late for Dalton and Haley Sturgeon to rally and earn a place in the final-round field Saturday, when conditions are expected to be much more pleasant.

Kendra Dalton tees off on the par-five 5th hole. Photo/Jesse Dodson

Sturgeon, an assistant pro at The Country Club in Salt Lake City, performed better in the second round to extend her trend of last April, when she also received a sponsor exemption into the LPGA Tour-brand stop at Copper Rock. Sturgeon (81-76) bogeyed the last two holes Friday, after a birdie on the par-4 No. 13 (No. 6 for regular play) had tied her with Dalton, an Epson Tour regular.

Emma Broze, a former Oklahoma State golfer from France, has posted 73-68 for a 3-under-par total and a two-stroke lead over three players. The rest of the field is over par for the tournament.

Copper Rock Championship 2nd round leader Emma Broze. Photo/Jim Bochenek

The cut came at 8 over par, four shots higher than last year (before the wind became the story of the final round and scores soared). Dalton missed by three strokes this week, even though she played the back nine in even par for two days.

Defending champion Bailey Tardy (78-75) missed by one shot, thanks to a bogey on the par-4 No. 17 (usually No. 10), where she partially shanked a short-iron approach shot into a bunker that’s seemingly not even in play on the other side of the creek from the green.

Two former amateur stars advanced, though. In her pro debut, 17-year-old Alexa Pano (79-73) made the cut on the number. Gabriela Ruffels, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, bounced back from an 81 with a 66 that included an eagle on the par-4 No. 10 (usually No. 3), where she drove the green.

As for Dalton, she bogeyed six of the first 11 holes Friday in a round that seemed doomed from the start, even while a 75 would have been sufficient to keep playing. Heavy rain stopped just in time for Dalton to tee off in the mid-afternoon, but cost her a warmup session. Her tee shot on the par-5 No. 1 went into the desert to the right of the fairway, leading to a bogey. Dalton’s iron game was off all day, although she was more disappointed with a short game that’s “really killing me” and couldn’t overcome those ball-striking issues.

“I feel like I’m better than I’ve ever been,” Dalton said, “but I’m not scoring.”

So she’ll travel to Garden City, Kansas, next week, hoping that the remaining three-fourths of the tour schedule will evoke better results. “Everything’s there,” she said of her game. “You just keep moving forward and learning. I know it sounds crazy, but I know it’s there, and I’m going to do it.”

Haley Sturgeon tee shot on the tournament’s 3rd hole at Copper Rock. Photo/Jesse Dodson

Sturgeon also left Copper Rock feeling encouraged, while wishing she could have done more with her limited tour exposure for 2022. “I have the game,” she said. “It’s mental, and then it’s just accepting the elements. And, I think, belief in yourself is a big part of it.”

She’ll keep working on her game and on her Class A PGA membership. Sturgeon wants to use that status to become eligible for the Utah Section PGA Player of the Year award. She means overall, not only among female pros, as a three-time Women’s Player of the Year.


Epson Tour Copper Rock Championship Update

By Kurt Kragthorpe

 Smiles have varying styles. Kendra Dalton’s wry grin came with a shake of her head and an expression of exasperation Thursday as she stood on the No. 9 tee of Copper Rock Golf Course, buffeted by the wind in her face.

The second Copper Rock Championship resumed in the same, relentlessly windy conditions as the inaugural tournament ended last April. The scores told the story in the opening round of the 54-hole Epson Tour event presented by KSLSPORTS.com: LPGA Tour veteran Kim Kaufman’s 2-under-par 70 was good for a one-stroke lead and, even more remarkably, only three other golfers shot par or better.

“You can get punished out here,” Dalton said, after absorbing two double bogeys on the front nine. The former BYU golfer rallied by playing the back nine in 1 under par, posting a 77 that “sounds awful,” she acknowledged, although that number looked a lot better as the afternoon progressed.

Kendra Dalton, former Utah State Women’s Amateur champion and BYU Cougar.

Dalton is inside this weekend’s projected cut line, which came at 6 over par for 36 holes last year. Copper Rock was much more playable in the first two rounds of 2021, before the sustained winds of 30-plus mph arrived for the finish.

Bailey Tardy, who posted 66-70-70 in winning last April’s title, opened with a 78. Alexa Pano, making her pro debut at age 17 after recently appearing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, played the last four holes in 1 under just to shoot a 79.

Haley Sturgeon missed the cut by one stroke last year. In Thursday’s case, she got to experience everything she missed in that final round as the wind took its toll on the 120-player field.

Playing on another sponsor exemption, the assistant pro from The Country Club in Salt Lake City shot an 81, slightly worse than the 79 she opened with last year before responding with a 70.

Haley Sturgeon, Salt Lake Country Club assistant professional and Rolex Women’s Player of the Year.

Sturgeon hopes to make a similar comeback, the biggest question being when she’ll get to play. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Friday afternoon, when Dalton and Sturgeon are scheduled to tee off among the last few threesomes. If there’s any delay at all, the second round will spill over into Saturday.

Thursday’s average round lasted nearly 6 hours, with the wind requiring an agonizing process on every shot, even (or especially) short putts.

Dalton, in her fourth year on the newly renamed Epson Tour, missed the cut in the first two tournaments of 2022 before advancing in the last two events and ranking 64th on the money list. Her adventurous front nine Thursday included two swings from a greenside bunker on the par-5 No. 1 (No. 12 for regular play), followed by two good par saves and two missed birdie chances. The most exposed parts of the course then caused her trouble.

Her tee shot on the par-3 No. 6 hit “a wall” of wind, she said, leading to a penalty stroke and a double bogey. On the par-4 No. 9 (usually No. 2), her well-struck approach shot went through the green, then she chipped poorly and three-putted from 15 feet for another double bogey. At that point, she was 6 over and “a little frustrated,” she said, ducking her head on the green of the same hole where she had tried to laugh off the rough conditions just moments earlier.

But she regrouped. Dalton played solidly on the back nine, birdieing the par-5 No. 12 after a great shot out of a fairway bunker, hitting seven greens in regulation and saving pars when necessary.

“A lot of it’s your attitude,” she said of salvaging a round. “You can get pretty mad and keep that angry energy, but that’s something I’m really trying to do, is not react in my mind. I think that just comes with experience.”

Sturgeon knew what she was getting into this week, as a club pro temporarily experiencing life in an LPGA Tour-brand event. Yet the wind and the environment still worked against her.

“You’re just trying to get mentally ready for (the wind),” she said. “Unfortunately, I just couldn’t settle into it and accept it. I feel like I was fighting it a lot. I knew it was coming, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.”

Same with performing in a tour setting. Sturgeon labeled herself as “a little bit more prepared” than last year, but she “still had a lot of nerves going.”

Ernie Schneiter

Ernie Schneiter Jr. Receives Utah Sports Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Ernie Schneiter Jr. long ago was inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame, and he has received multiple honors from the Utah Section PGA and the Utah Golf Association during his 70-plus-year tenure as a golf professional.

The recognition keeps coming, in his 90s. Schneiter was presented a Distinguished Service Award on April 6 during the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation’s annual Spring Honors and Awards Banquet in Salt Lake City.

Schneiter was recognized for his impact in northern Utah, having redesigned and expanded Schneiter’s Riverside Golf Course in Riverdale and built Schneiter’s Bluff GC in West Point. He’s credited with introducing countless golfers to the game while promoting golf on a one-on-one basis with his personable nature.

The Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation annually presents one or two Distinguished Service Awards. High school drill team advocate Lori Rupp will be honored alongside Schneiter in the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Museum in the City Creek Center.

Joe Cravens was recognized as a Coach of Merit and Roger Buhrley, John Colosimo, Gil Cordova, Gail Meakins, Alaina Parker and Dave Wigham were named Distinguished High School Coaches.

Schneiter, a 1948 graduate of Weber High School, was inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame in 2004, along with Mike Weir and Mary Lou Baker. He was named the Utah Section PGA Professional of the Year in 1997 and received both the UGA’s Gold Club Award and the PGA’s Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award in 2000.

CHICAGO, IL - June 28: Keith Soriano during the PGA CORE Committee Meetings at Hilton O’Hare on June 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

Prepare for your Annual Career Majors

By Keith Soriano, PGA

It’s. HERE.  My favorite golf week of the year… The Masters.  As I think about everything that goes into preparing to host the best golfers in the world, I think about the teams of people involved.  The team that puts on each major championship in 2022 has worked diligently for years prior to prepare for their time in the spotlight.  While you may never host an event of this magnitude at your facility, you probably have experience preparing for “major” events. The time, energy, and dedication spent to ensure that tournaments such as your Club Championship or Member-Guest are a success serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of preparation. 

My colleague Todd Smith, PGA once wrote an article on the importance of properly preparing for interviews by comparing them to playing a practice round.  As one of the most decorated players in the PGA of America and a multi-time participant in the PGA Championship, he knows what he’s talking about. It was an important topic, and his article caused me to consider other career-related “major” events that should demand your attention. Like the annual calendar of major golf events, I have identified an annual cadence of four “major” career events that you should complete to prepare you for future success.

What is a “major” career-related event? In my opinion, it is anything that impacts the quality of your job, your enjoyment of it, or the intersection of your work and the rest of your life. Adding the following events to your annual calendar is a positive first step in achieving each of those objectives.

Annual Self-Evaluation and Employer Review – While the effectiveness of annual reviews is often debated and many employees dread the process, you can turn your review into a productive, career-building interaction with some additional preparation. Start with an honest self-evaluation of your performance during the year. Did you reach the goals you set for yourself? Did you meet the performance objectives of your employer? Can you clearly articulate the value you provided using real data? Use the time with your employer to discuss personal goals and understand their vision for the future. Your employer’s feedback and insight can be valuable resources and serve as a guide to identify opportunities for growth. 

Update Your Resume – After a thorough self-evaluation and employer review, it’s time to update your resume to include your greatest successes and highlight additional skills or experiences that you have gained. If you were able to clearly articulate the value you provided to your employer during the review process, add those success stories to your resume as impactful bullet points. 

Reassess Values & Priorities  – Your time, energy, & resources are all finite, which means you need to be intentional about how you choose to spend them. Have there been meaningful changes in your personal life? Were there any significant changes to your job or at your workplace? In either case, any dramatic changes may necessitate a shift in your priorities, which may require options you’ve never considered before. In that instance, seeking the counsel of someone with an outsider’s perspective may be beneficial. 

Goal Setting – This is a critical step, as goals help to define exactly what will demand your attention from this point forward. Using the knowledge gained through your Self-Evaluation, Employer Review & Values Assessment, set specific goals that will help you meet the expectations of your employer while finding the correct balance between your work and your life. Be sure to write them down and share them with someone who will hold you accountable. 

There you have it. A schedule of “major” career events that, like the Masters, should be highlights of your annual calendar. The timing of each will vary depending on your season, but when the time comes, I encourage you to connect with your mentors or myself to help guide you through the process. 

CLICK HERE to make an appointment with Keith Soriano, Regional Director |Member & Section Operations.

Mike Stanger

Mike Stanger: Doug Vilven Distinguished Service Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Mike Stanger’s passing at age 57 in August, as his two sons were playing in the first round of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open, undoubtedly was untimely.

As some consolation, though, the Utah Section PGA was able to honor Stanger that weekend at Riverside Country Club in Provo. That will happen again in February, when the Section’s professionals will play in the “EZ-GO Utah Winter Classic in Memory of Mike Stanger” in St. George.

As a Section member and longtime manufacturer’s representative, Stanger was a three-time winner of the Section’s Jon Unger Salesperson of the Year. He’s the second recipient of the Doug Vilven Distinguished Service Award.

“I don’t think Mike realized how many people that he touched and how many lives he affected in the golf world and in the world in general,” said Devin Dehlin, the Utah Section PGA’s executive director.

During the last two rounds of the Utah Open, Section pros wore ribbons on their caps in honor of Stanger and Dehlin recognized him during the presentations on the 18th green that Sunday.

Dehlin, a longtime friend of Stanger, was consoled “because we were able to do something for him immediately,” he said. “It made it special in a lot of ways.”

Among other contributions to Utah golf, Stanger had been instrumental in the Utah Open’s growth by arranging for pro-am gifts through the on-site Nike tent, during his affiliation with that company.

Devin Dehlin headshot

Devin Dehlin: Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

As the Utah Section PGA’s executive director for the past six years, Devin Dehlin does his job well. Where he really succeeds, though, is in looking beyond the boundaries of his job description.

As much as Dehlin loves golf, he loves golfers even more. That’s true of his Section professionals and everybody else he comes across in the game.

The interest he shows in other people is a trait he shares with Jeff Beaudry, the Section’s first executive director and a member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame. So it is fitting that Dehlin is the 2021 winner of the Section’s Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award.

“It makes me feel good that I would be recognized as somebody that is an ambassador of the game, that is a friend to the allied associations and parents and golfers,” Dehlin said. “To be recognized as someone that touches people in all different areas of the game is very humbling.”

Dehlin during the opening ceremonies of the 2021 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open

One of the distinctions of the Utah golf community is the way the amateur and professional governing bodies get along, which is not the case everywhere else. That’s partly an institutional working relationship, but more of a case of personal touch as reflected in Dehlin and Jacob Miller, executive director of the Utah Golf Association.

Dehlin cites a personality trait that is “my strength and my weakness,” of wanting everybody to feel satisfied with his work in various golf programs. “If there’s 99 happy parents and one that’s not,” he said, “I worry about the one that’s not.”

Dehlin also was honored in 2020, when the Utah Section PGA staff received the Golf Industry Service Award.

Colby Cowan

Colby Cowan: Bill Srasbaugh Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Colby Cowan now has two Bill Strasbaugh Awards to frame his tenure of nearly a decade as St. George City’s director of golf.

In connecting the dots of his career, it would be fair to say that the first award for club relations stemmed from his involvement in golf statewide and the latest honor recognizes his work within the city.

Cowan was the Utah Section PGA’s president in the era when the Golf Alliance For Utah was being formed, putting him in a position of working governmental agencies to promote the game. As his job in St. George has evolved, he’s part of the bureaucracy himself, yet also the advocate for golf. No wonder he labels it “kind of an interesting role.”

He’s eager to serve a voice in the city government for the head professionals of St. George’s four golf venues: Reed McArthur, Allen Orchard, Eron Deming and James Hood, as well as the golf course superintendents. Clubhouse renovations at Southgate GC and St. George GC are major improvements at a time when public golf again is booming in St. George.

“We’re way ahead of last year,” Cowan said. “We didn’t think that was possible.”

Cowan was the head pro at four St. George-area courses before moving into current job in 2012, when St, George City reestablished the administrative position.

While serving in that role, Cowan also was named the Section’s Professional of the Year in 2014.


Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen of the Year: Eric “Doc” Iverson

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links has a place in history as the first United States Golf Association event staged in Utah. The match-play bracket included future PGA Tour winners Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Talor Gooch.

And there’s much more lasting significance. The Publinks at Soldier Hollow Golf Course served as Eric “Doc” Iverson’s introduction to volunteer opportunities in golf. Now immersed in the game as a rules official, Iverson is the 2021 winner of the Utah Section PGA’s Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen of the Year award.

It all started when Iverson noticed a call for Publinks volunteers in Fairways magazine. After retiring as a high school principal in his native California, he had moved to Orem, where his mother and sister lived.

His primary role during the tournament was as a shuttle driver, taking golfers from the hotel to the course. “It was good fun,” he said. “That’s what got me hooked on the golf thing.”

“Hooked” means Iverson spends 50-plus days on the golf course as a rules official from March through September in a role he relishes. He’s “amazed how appreciative the players are of you being out there … from high school all the way up to the professional level.”

Iverson added, “Golf is a fraternity of people, men and women. It’s not that way in a lot of sports. You meet lifelong friends in the game.”

Now, about that nickname. It turns out that the former principal and current rules official skirted a requirement as a high school cross country runner, signing a doctor’s name on the form for a physical exam. His coach played along, calling him “Doc” in what became a permanent moniker.

Jake Ebner-7-min

Jake Ebner: Superintendent of the Year – Private

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The recent renovation of Alpine Country Club gave Superintendent Jake Ebner and his staff renewed direction in their care of the golf course, but that’s really nothing new. Ebner’s crew outlines an area of emphasis every year.

“We always come up with something new,” Ebner said.

The strategy is working. Ebner is the Utah Section PGA’s Superintendent of the Year for private facilities in 2021, a year after receiving the same award from the Utah Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Alpine was showcased this year as the host of the 123rd Utah State Amateur, giving contestants a glimpse of Ebner’s standards. He strives to create “tournament conditions every day,” so that an event such as the State Am doesn’t require extraordinary preparation.

Alpine is known for an avid golf membership that expects high-level conditioning. Ebner is no different. “I’m a fairly decent golfer,” he said, “and even when I go out to play, I want it to be the best possible conditions.”

Advances in technology and equipment have aided Ebner during his 15 years as Alpine’s director of agronomy. The challenge stems from wind that blows down American Fork Canyon and disrupts overnight watering patterns. “It takes a lot of hand watering to keep everything consistent,” he said.

The staff’s biggest innovation in 2021 was regulating the growth of the greens during the day, because afternoon players want the same, fresh-cut speed of the morning. One wrinkle for 2022 will be the use of wetting agents on the fairways.

Photo: Bradford Schaub, Alpine Country Club

Steve Carter

Steve Carter: Superintendent of the Year – Public

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Steve Carter walked away from his interview for the superintendent’s job at Cedar Ridge Golf Course fearing that Cedar City administrators were seeking someone with much more experience.

Now, 18 years later after landing the job, Carter probably has enough material to fill a book about his experiences at Cedar Ridge.

The main characters in that story? Prairie dogs and sprinkler pipes. The path that has taken Carter to the Utah Section PGA’s Superintendent of the Year award for public courses has been riddled with holes of various shapes and sizes. Everything looks much smoother now on a layout that Carter describes as “one of the hidden gems of the state of Utah.”

Carter initially worked at Logan River Golf Course while attending Utah State and spent four years as an assistant to Randy Oldham at the Logan Country Club. Oldham won this award in 2020.

If he were a PGA professional, Carter would be a great candidate for the Bill Strasbaugh Award for club relations, based on his work with city and state agencies in addressing Cedar Ridge’s issues with irrigation and prairie dog infestation. The shorter version of those stories is that Carter’s cooperation with government entities, including the Utah Dept. of Natural Resources, has steadily increased Cedar Ridge’s playability level.

Carter cites “just a great opportunity to work with all those organizations.”

He’s also thankful to veteran pros John Evans and Jared Barnes for being so supportive of the superintendent’s role at Cedar Ridge.